Pacific Freedom Forum welcomes court ruling on mine photos

Rarotonga, Cook Islands — A judge’s instruction backing fair use of photos snapped by landowners at a controversial mining project in Madang, Papua New Guinea, is being welcomed by the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“The judiciary in Papua New Guinea deserve praise for refusing to gag use of photos,” says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.

PFF has reviewed background into the case brought by MCC, the Metallurgical Corporation of China, who co-own Ramu Nickel Mine with an Australian company, Highlands Pacific.

A US$1.5 billion project seeking to discharge five million tons of waste into coastal waters, MCC has generated years of controversy and allegations of seeking to avoid due process.

Asked by mining project lawyers to ban publication of photos, PNG national court judge Justice David Cannings told the court on March 5 he would not rule on how photos should be used– only that the photos should not suffer “misuse”.

“His only warning about photos taken at Ramu Nickel Mine – against misuse – is entirely correct. The photos are not a state secret. Similar photos have graced the pages of two daily tabloids, a weekly and the screens of two TV networks in the past”, he says.

Justice Cannings ruled against a ban soon after visiting the mining site with members of the court. Reports sighted by PFF state the judge also instructed that evidence from the court visit to the mine be entered into the record, as this does not always happen in other cases.

“The ruling sends a clear message to mining and other resource interests of the independence of the judiciary in refusing to support a “gag” on free expression, and should be taken note of by Pacific neighbours as investor interest in resource mining grows,” says PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.

The photography ruling sought by MCC is all part of a larger legal wrangle involving the landowners, over their concerns on environment impacts of the project. The next hearing is scheduled for 23 March 2011.–ENDS

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Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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